For years I have been teaching artists to digitally print on alternative surfaces. My exploration of these surfaces led me to printing on just about any substrate that would fit through my Epson art printers. Digital Printing is possible on all sorts of fabrics, papers, metals, recycled surfaces, beverage cans, synthetics, hand made amate paper and more. The catch to working with alternative surfaces includes having an art printer with a platen gap. In this article you will learn how to use digital imagery in your art with a simple process that does not require a special art printer.
Photoshop is one of my favorite digital programs. I love to manipulate my images and place those images in all sorts of places in my artwork. Since most of the places for images are on parts of sculpture this can be tricky. The process I will teach you will give you freedom to use imagery in your work in unusual ways.
Using a product called Transferiez™ from inkAID® and a few instructions you will be up and running to place images in your artwork. No art printer required just a grasp of the process.
For this article I will give you the basics on how to use this amazing medium with an accompanying video posted on my YouTube Channel. My intention is to get you started and your creative juices flowing toward new possibilities.
What you will need for this process and the links—
*inkAID Transfer Film choices:
*Jars: Kerr Wide Mouth Mason or Ball Wide Mouth jars—these are glass canning jars. Mix your Transferiez™ and alcohol in these. Be sure to read the directions on the Transferiez™ bottle for mixing and other information.
*Polyurethane or other Rigid Plastic Sheet: surface for table protection.
*Wipes: Clorox or Lysol Wipes work for me.
*3 inch foam brush: Home Depot or hardware and paint stores. Buy a good one so they last and don’t break apart.
*Catalyst W-06 from Princeton Artist Brush Co. (shown in the video) here’s a link from Dick Blick-wedge shape 6—it is the white wedge on this page.
*Other tools suggestions: foam roller, brayer, small terry cloth towel pieces, whatever you like to use to secure the ink to the surface. Once you start to practice you will see what works best for the surfaces you use. Feel free to invent our own tools!
*Printer: To print your transfer film. If you want to do large images you may want a printer that prints wider than 8.5 x 11 inches (21.59 x 27.94 cm).
The Transferiez Process
The process for porous (any porous surface for example fabrics, papers, burlap, canvas and the like) and nonporous (surfaces such as metal, mirrors, plastic and the like) is different. For porous surfaces— use more of the transfer solution then you would a nonporous surface.
Mix your transfer solution with 1 Tablespoon of Transferiez™ Image Transfer Medium to 4 ounces of 91% Alcohol. Remember there is no substitution for the 91%. The medium will only work with 91% alcohol. Read the directions on the bottle of Transferiez™ for proper preparation.
My preference once the solution is ready is to leave my brush in the jar. Usually I mix just four ounces of alcohol with Transferiez™ a little goes a long way.
Print your transfer film- don’t forget that you want to either mirror the image in the image file or use flip horizontal in the print box. Your image will look opposite of the original if you do not do one of those two things before printing. This is especially important if you have text in your image.
Depending on your preference you may rub out the ink around the image on the transfer film with a cloth and water. This may help to release the transfer on the edges when you lift the transfer film. My choice to remove the edges is mostly so my completed transfer has a soft edge.
Clean your non porous surface (surfaces like fabric) with a tape lint remover. Metals I clean by using a Scotch Brite or similar to rough up the surface a bit. Then I spray it with a solution of 1/3 white vinegar to 2/3 water. Wipe off and let this dry before applying solution. Try to keep your fingers off your surfaces. Fingerprints on metal will show later in the finished image.
Start small—better to have small successes than large messed up transfers. Get a feeling for your surface and what it takes. Watch the companion video before you start. Then later go for larger transfers with success.
Tape your surface down as necessary—this is completely up to you. For metals sometimes I use a little piece of folded over tape underneath to hold the metal to the table. Depending on the fabric or paper and the size there may be slippage or movement and tape will secure it.
Spread the Transferiez™ on the surface. For fabrics and porous surfaces saturate the surface so the ink will flow into the texture of the fabric. For metals you won’t need as much solution—spread it evenly without making bubbles on the surface.They may show later. If you do encounter bubbles when you lift the transfer film carefully pop them with a pin. They then should just disappear.
Once the surface is has solution place the transfer. I lightly press with my hands from the center out. This flattens the transfer so that it is touching the entire surface.
One thing to watch for is distortion in the image when the ink starts to release from the transfer. On a porous surface this is not as critical since the image will set into the fibers. On a nonporous surface you could actually damage the transferred image. The ink starts to release from the transfer film quicker on nonporous surfaces like metal. Carefully press your image onto the nonporous surface. I usually start with the foam roller lightly to keep the image intact.
To remove transfer film from the surface wait about 3 to 4 minutes. Keep track and you will see what works best for your environment. I start with lifting carefully across the top and not just from the corners. (As you view the video you will see how I remove the transfer film.) When I start the roll back and lift the top edge—I lightly run my finger along the top of the back of the transfer film to dislodge any bits of the image that aren’t peeling off. I roll the film back slowly and lightly press on the film. When rolling back on metals—if the pressure is to heavy the ink from the print may move a bit, so get a feel for the correct pressure. Again try the techniques shown on small pieces and then go for larger.
If some of the transfer stays on the film wait a little longer the next time. Also make sure you have pressed the ink in fully if you are having that issue. You are welcome to email me with questions.
In the case of air bubbles, I don’t encounter many. The nonporous surfaces may get some, but I have observed something about air bubbles. If you pull the film up and off fast it sometimes pulls the image up just a bit—as it settles back down it creates air bubbles. Since I observed this and take my film off the way I do, I do not get air bubbles on the fabrics and more textural surfaces. I also have not been getting many on the metals. If I see an air bubble I pop it with a pin.
Next carefully put the transfer away to dry. I usually dry mine overnight before spraying or brushing on an over coating.
This process has been a wonderful addition to my sculpture and if you are interested in using digital imagery in your art the possibilities are endless. Enjoy!!